On the Move

Constantino Silva, senior director of migrant education for MCOE, says migrant education services are the same regardless of who administers the program, SCESD or the county office.

In February, Salinas City Elementary School District announced it would eliminate several positions. On the layoff list was a position that alarmed many parents: the person in charge of recruiting students for the Migrant Education Program, a federal program that aids migrant students. Instead, the district proposed transitioning the migrant ed program to the Monterey County Office of Education.

Parents and community members quickly mobilized, and many attended a school board meeting on Feb. 21. Over a dozen people spoke about the proposed change, all in opposition.

The Migrant Education Program is crucial for many migrant parents and their children. It provides support to migrant students, ages 3 to 21, to tackle specific needs such as navigating repeat moves from one school to another. Services include after-school and Saturday programs, participation in a speech and debate tournament and tickets to events such as the Pebble Beach Authors & Ideas Festival.

In California, Monterey County is the second-largest migrant education region, serving over 8,000 students. Thousands of farmworkers follow the harvest, moving seasonally to Southern California or Arizona. SCESD has 789 migrant students this year; Los Padres and Sherwood elementary schools have the most, with 141 and 133, respectively.

Currently, MCOE runs migrant education in 10 school districts, including Monterey Peninsula Unified and Gonzales Union. SCESD is one of four districts that run the program themselves and submit expenses to MCOE for approval and reimbursement.

County Superintendent Deneen Guss says every year each district decides if they want to run the program themselves or transfer it to MCOE. The issue is whether to move the program, not eliminate it. “They are just trying to explore additional options, how they might be able to afford to administer the program,” Guss says.

Parents are concerned they will lose their sense of community and familiarity with current staff because if MCOE takes over, the likelihood of having the same aides is slim. Mary Pritchard, SCESD’s director of the Migrant Education Department, plans to retire by the end of the year, a result of the forthcoming layoff notifications.

Demetrio Pruneda, a retired teacher of 30 years who occasionally substitutes for SCESD, said the planning process failed to include the main parties – families and staff – in a discussion about management of the migrant program. “The only way you’re going to co-create a better reality is to include the people that are directly involved in what you want to change,” he says.

On Feb. 23, the District Migrant Advisory Committee, run by migrant parents with representatives from each SCESD school, held a meeting in Spanish to discuss the change. Parents, former migrant students and community members highlighted the importance of the program and opposed moving it to the county level. The DMAC voted to recommend keeping it within SCESD and to collect signatures in support, with plans to present them to the board.

(1) comment

Christian Mendelsohn

Pretty sure the Board will make the decision at the 3/21/22 Board meeting

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